Switching to Linux which distro to use, Ubuntu?

This is the third of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies. In our first article of this series we took a look at Fedora 9 Beta, the second article we spoke about openSUSE, and the third in the series was about Mandriva.

We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.

Ubuntu 8.04

Like the other main distros, Ubuntu’s live CD is extremely simple to use and quite fast to load the full Gnome desktop. But… once the desktop loaded I had the same screen problems I had with the other distros I tried (except Mandriva), the configuration was all wierd. Blame nVidia, blame Microsoft’s importance for hardware compliance, … all I know is that it wasn’t working. After the full installation and finding the correct drivers to install these problems do go away though. Also, embedded web videos aren’t displayed.


Ubuntu desktop

The desktop visual has the familiar Ubuntu style of orange. Ubuntu 8.04 (aka Hardy Heron) also packs all of the goodies of Gnome 2.22.



Monitor didn’t work too well. All of the rest worked like a charm: keyboard, bluetooth (I just got a bluetooth dongle), audio, webcam, and reading/writing to NTFS partitions of my HD. But, I’m aware that the video issue is corrected after the installation and that it isn’t working through the live CD because of issues with proprietary drivers.



The basic all-you-need package is present: Firefox, Transmission, Brasero, Pidgin, VNC, OpenOffice, GIMP, and quite a few others.


The huge “double thumbs-up” Ubuntu gets from me is their Add/Remove programs application. First, it packs hundreds and hundreds of options of programs you can install with just 2 clicks. Second, and most important is the stars placed beside the name for each application. A complete Linux newbie (like I was) wouldn’t know the majority of these programs and to see a ranking system based on feedback and usage is incredibly helpful. I was able to quickly find some very nice programs just by checking the options with five stars. It couldn’t be easier.


Ubuntu add remove programs

Ubuntu is a Debian based platform, so the options for programs that can be installed is huge and the installation process also can be very easy.


First impressions results?

Three pinguinsI was quite pleased with this test. Ubuntu makes sure things are quite simple for the user, fast, and very resourceful. But, Ubuntu’s lack of proprietary drivers distribution gives a few first impression glitches that can scare users away. In my opinion, I would give Ubuntu 2 pinguins because of the issues with drivers, but the speed and very nice ease of use made me give Ubuntu three pinguins.


Just an idea, why not make a release by Canonical loaded with these proprietary drivers? Then, it would make the perfect distro.


Overall Mandriva is my favorite distro from these tests. I do have Ubuntu installed on my main computer but if I were to do a fresh install I would surely change. At least that is my personal opinion with the current releases tested so far.

Fedora 9 has been released!

Red Hat’s sponsored Fedora 9 has just been released. This solid Linux distro is out with some pretty interesting features:

  • you can run Fedora 9 from a USB pen drive or external disk;
  • unlike Ubuntu, KD4 is integrated;
  • for Gnome distribution, version 2.22 was used;
  • there is an option for you to run it with ext4 for better performance;
  • and as always loaded with programs including OpenOffice 2.4 and Firefox 3 beta.

Fedora 9 Beta

A while ago I took Fedora 9 beta for a spin if you want to check it out.

Switching to Linux which distro to use, Mandriva?

This is the third of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies. In our first article of this series, we took a look at Fedora 9 Beta, and the second article we spoke about openSUSE.

We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.

Mandriva One 2008 Spring


First Mandriva’s live CD takes me through a few questions such as my language, location, keyboard layout, and even had me accept their terms and conditions. Then, the next thing I saw was beautiful!  My screen was perfectly configured to the correct resolution and size. Plus, I was even able to have compiz running through a live CD. Marvaleous!! Mandriva’s 2008-1 spring live CD was the only Linux distro I’ve ever tested that was able to give me this. How so? The folks in Mandriva packaged the nVidia drivers in this live CD.


Mandriva desktop

The visuals of the desktop and entire theme is very well designed and looks pretty professionally done. The desktop is the pretty familiar Gnome layout, with two panels and the “Applications”, “Places”, and “System” menus.



Monitor was perfect, it just worked. Microphone and speakers also worked very well. Since it seems Mandriva isn’t shy to place proprietary material in their distro, I guessed (correctly) that it would play mp3 files. Even Firefox did whatever I needed to do, including play embbeded videos.

All my partitions were visible, with read and write access.



The complete basic package is present: Firefox, Pidgin, VNC, Ekiga, OpenOffice, GIMP, Brasero and quite a few others.

Another really neat feature I found was the Mandriva Linux Control center. There is a convenient shortcut to it on the taskbar right beside Firefox and Evolution. Here I’m able to configure pretty much anything, install programs, setup automatic backups, configure my printers, network, change the visuals and desktop preferences, organize HD partitions, firewall, and even Parental Control settings.


Mandriva Control Center

Mandriva has an RPM package system to install new programs. It isn’t the prettiest or the most user friendly but it works pretty well.

First impressions results?

Three pinguinsWow, I was quite happy. Everything just worked, no glitches, no bugs I could easily find, or any thing I wasn’t able to do from lack of drivers. In my opinion, the perfect choice for a Linux newbie. Mandriva 2008-1 spring gets three pinguins.

For a newbie, just fresh out of Windows this would be a perfect choice of reccomendation. Everything that I tested at least was running out-of-the box so the transition would be to learn the way around Linux and not having to wonder how to get stuff working.

Next, we’ll take a look at the all mighty famous Ubuntu.


Now I leave it up to you our dear readers, share with us your experiences with Mandriva.

Ubuntu 8.04 update without any issues

Over the weekend I updated my Ubuntu machine from 7.10 to the brand new 8.04 release. I waited a few days after the official release to see if I heard any reports of upgrade problems.

I searched and searched and really didn’t find that many written reports of people that had updated their machines, most prefered to install from scratch. So, I took the risk and pressed the update distribution release button.

Ubuntu Hardy Heron update

It took about 3 hours for my computer with a 600kpbs connection to download all of the data needed. After 30 more minutes and a couple of error messages, the machine was updated. I rebooted to see whether everything was working and I was happy to say that it was.

Maybe the error messages it gave me were false alarms… So far, my machine is running very well and stable. I removed Transmission since I’m using Deluge BitTorrent client. One small  thing I didn’t like was the switch to Firefox beta. Now, many of the plug-ins I use are not functional. I wish I had the option to stick with my old Firefox, specially since this one isn’t on final release yet.

Here is what my desktop looks like now (the wallpaper and icon theme I had set previously):

ubuntu hardy heron desktop

What about you dear readers, share with us your experiences upgrading or installing Ubuntu 8.04.

New Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu 8.04 is in da house!

new Ubuntu 8.04

The ever so popular and handy Long Term support 8.04 versions of Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu are out. The star of the show, Ubuntu has quite a nice set of new features, including:

  • A windows based Ubuntu installer, so you don’t have to go through creating and managing partitions;
  • New out-of-the-box programs such as Transmission (for BitTorrents), Brasero (CD and DVD burning), Firefox 3 beta;
  • new Gnome 2.22;
  • plus lots and lots more.

Get it now through download, purchase liveCDs, or even ask them to be shipped to you for free! For torrents, try here.

Switching to Linux which distro to use, openSUSE?

This is the second of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies. In our first article of this series, we took a look at Fedora 9 Beta.

We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.

openSUSE 11 Beta

This Linux distro welcomes me to a desktop which makes me wonder whether I really used the Gnome or KDE version. The Gnome desktop layout tries to take the Windows (or KDE) style a bit by placing only one panel at the bottom, which has only one ‘Computer button.

openSUSE 11 desktop

When clicking on ‘Computer’ what I found was a bit too crowded and confusing. It looks like there was an attempt to shove everything in the same location, Applications, File Locations, Documents, Control Center, System Settings, Log out, Shutdown, Install Software, etc, but for me this was very confusing.

Different menus for each will get the user to the final destination faster, with only one click and probably less than a second. To open a program I can go through the search bar at the top (didn’t work for me for some reason), or I can click on “More Applications” which takes me to another window full of programs. So, a program can easily be 3-clicks away for me, the same for settings configuration.

As a note, you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m more familiar with Gnome. But, even the KDE distros I’ve tested were easier to navigate through than this release.

Since I have an nVidia card, my monitor didn’t work too well. The screen was blury and the size was way off, the same I encountered with Fedora. Again, I couldn’t even correct this through a simple settings change. Once everything is installed on my HD instead of running from a live CD I am pretty sure I won’t have this problem anymore.

I tried to test my microphone or speakers but the voice recorder software crashed and I also couldn’t play mp3 songs. I was able to play ogg video files, but it only had video with no audio.

Good thing to note is that while on openSUSE 10.3 I wasn’t able to get access to my NTFS partitions, now I was able to see all partitions of my HD without a glitch.

YaST, is openSUSE’s the control center. Everything you want to configure on your computer will be found here. The list of options is pretty extensive and gives the user quite a bit of flexibility. I really liked two apps, an automated backup utility and a firewall. Here, unlike in Fedora, the firewall GUI was much easier to manage.

openSUSE install software

To install and uninstall softwares on your machine, the process is also very easy. You can easily see everything that is already installed, remove something that you want and easily add. Also, everything is nicely categorized (Development, Hardware, Productivity, etc). openSUSE came with a very nice set of applications already installed. Pretty much all the necessary softwares were present, Firefox, Pidgin, Evolution, OpenOffice, and even Banshee, Brasero, Pulse Audio, and lots more.

openSUSE list of programs

First impressions results?
two pinguinsTo be honest I was a bit disappointed with openSUSE. Speaking about the good points, I liked the collection of software installed and the nice control center. But, I had no audio and the video was poorly configured with the liveCD. Also, the menu system just didn’t work for me. Having to go through 3 clicks to open a program is just too much, I can imagine going through this many times a day isn’t very interesting. For me, in this test I would give openSUSE 11 one and a half Pinguins, but since it is a poor cruelty to chop this cute animal, I’ll give two.

The problems that I encountered are most likely from openSUSE not having proprietary drivers installed, which is understandable. But, openSUSE`s Gnome layout was just too confusing for me to recommend to someone used to a Windows or KDE UI. The layout was just not effective.

Next up, we’ll take a look at the new Mandriva release.

*Note: the pictures here were snapshots taken from 10.3 openSUSE release. I couldn’t take screenshots from this 11 Beta release because Gimp wasn’t installed and the screen resolution was just too bad.

Rescue boot CD – SystemRescue CD

System rescue CDSystemRescueCd is an awesome computer saviour. This Linux bootable CD is packed with utilities for you to recover or organize better your machine. With it you can:

  • partition (or edit partitions of) your HD;
  • save and restore data from different partitions;
  • restore a bootloader;
  • backup and archive data;
  • run a virus scan;
  • and wipe out safely your HD.

A very handy bootable CD to have around, you’ll never know when you’ll be needing it but it is almost guaranteed that you will need it someday.

Switching to Linux which distro to use, Fedora?

This is the first of a sequence of posts where we’ll take a look at a few of the main Linux distros to find out which are the most welcoming to Linux newbies.

We’ll do this test with the live (Gnome) CD to analyze: parts of the hardware that are recognized, software package installed, general usability (setup adjustments, software installation). Computer tested specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600, 2GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 6100.

Fedora 9 Beta

Fedora 9 is scheduled to be released later this month. This is one of the most popular distros, gaining a lot of traction on the corporate world through its support by Red Hat. Would it be easy to handle by a Linux newbie?? Let’s see!

Once the live CD runs, we’re presented with the familiar Gnome layout, one panel at the top and another one at the bottom. This live CD already comes with Gnome’s latest release which is visibly noticeable by the integration with Pulse Audio, Transmission, and the multiple timezones in the clock application.

Fedora desktop

Since I have a nVidia card, I already expect that it won’t work properly out-of-the-box. The screen is blurry and the size is way off, I can’t even correct this through a simple settings change. I bet though once installed I can download and install the proper drivers.

My microphone didn’t work and neither did the speakers. I was able to play a video ogg file but unable to hear anything. Proprietary media formats were not recognized, but this is also quite common in the Linux world, specially Fedora. Users generally have to find a solution for it after the installation.

Good news was that my NTFS partitions were all recognized with read and write permission.

What was weird for me right from the start is that Fedora didn’t include in this live CD OpenOffice, only AbiWord and Gnumeric were already installed. Although both applications are very good, from my experience it isn’t compared to the awesome functionalities of OpenOffice. Plus, it may not be that much popular for users converting from another OS or Linux distro.

Another unique thing I’ve found on Fedora is the Firewall configuration with a GUI. I know Linux is pretty good with its inbound connections and you can configure access, but many times this happens somewhere you can only reach through the terminal. But… once I opened the Firewall configuration window it was almost next to nothing for me. It is loaded with words I`m not familiar with (yes, I’m not an expert or advanced in networks). Even the wizard couldn’t help me much.

Fedora firewall

Add and remove software interface is very user-friendly, with everything categorized or also accessible through a search option.

First impressions results? two tux pinguins

Fedora 9 Beta is a pretty interesting and solid distro. Since a lot of my computer specs will require proprietary drivers, I can see why they wouldn’t be recognized. I understand this by being familiar with the open source philosophy and constraints. But, mainstream users want everything to function correctly out-of-the-box. So, for this I gave Fedora 9 Beta two Pinguins.I wish I had known though before I purchased this machine that so much of it came with hardware that required proprietary drivers.

I would recommend Fedora to a Linux newbie, but I would make sure I installed it and had everything running smoothly before introducing it to the new user.

Next post, we’ll take a look at openSUSE.

Installing Linux – partitions

Before installing my Linux distro I did some pretty lengthy research on partitions. This was a concern for me since I was not doing a fresh install, but installing Linux right beside Windows with a dual boot installation.

If you want to have your entire computer Linux-only, you will not have much to worry, the automatic installation can handle everything by itself. But, if you want a dual boot with Windows, or want to leave some space for other operating systems, it is wise to study a bit about this topic before starting your installation.

Note: Since Windows is a bully and doesn’t play very nice, it always needs to be installed first, before any Linux installation. If you want to have Windows and Linux on your machine, make sure that Windows is there first.

Back to the main topic. First thing to know is that Linux will need at least two partitions: SWAP, and the system’s partition.

  • SWAP partition is recommended to be twice the size of your RAM. But usually no more then 2GB is needed.
  • the main system’s partition (in ext3 filesystem) doesn’t need to be that large. I currently have an entire Linux installation plus dozens of software occupying just 5GB. Just to be safe depending on the distro you use, set aside a minimum of 15GB.

Now, if you want to be even better you can have a third partition for your /home files. This is where all of your personal settings, configurations, and files are stored. Putting your Windows-hat on, it is almost equivalent to your “My Documents” folder. The size of this /home partition is really up to you, depends on how much file space you’ll need for your document files.

With a separate partition for your /home you will be able to reinstall your Linux distro without major losses, your files will be kept safe. In the installation procedure, you will be asked if you have a /home partition already created.

As a tip, after working dual boot with Linux and Windows I’ve found that it is much easier to have all of my files (docs, spreadsheets, images, music, etc) in one common partition. The main Linux distros are now being able to read and write from Windows’ NTFS partition. Since both can access this partition, leave all of the files you handle daily here so you can easily get access from whichever operating system you’re working with.

I realize there are ways to have Windows access with read/write permission an ext3 partition but to leave my Linux safe, I have not done it. If a virus ever gets to my computer while I’m working on Windows, there will be no way for it to do any damage to my Linux installation. So, if it doesn’t see it, it won’t harm it.

Believe me, this is one of the most complicated things to know about when installing Linux. The rest is so very easy.

Open source OS – Linux

So far we’ve covered open source programs you can run on your computer. Most often they’re safer, lighter, and able to have you get the task done just as easily as proprietary equivalents.

Now, we’ll take it to the next level and talk about entire operating systems you can use on your machine. With an open source OS, at the maturity level of the existing projects, you will be able to make your entire computer safer, leaner, and quite often easier to manage.

Linux is one branch of open source OS you can go to. Contrary to common thought, you don’t need to know or run command lines using the main distributions available. You can do so if you want to customize your system or solve some very specific problems. But, let me assure you that this kind of situation can be extremely rare. I’ve been running Linux almost exclusively for months and only had to run command lines a couple of times guided by one of the several user generated forum tutorials.

One of the hardest things to do when I migrated was to make the choice of which distribution to use. All of these distros are free, mature, and very stable. My favorites are Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu (or Kubuntu, Xubuntu) and Mandriva. Also, you’ll have to choose the file system and visual desktop management systems: KDE, Gnome, or the lighter Xfce. Currently I’m using Ubuntu which comes with Gnome. But, it is all a matter of choice and preference.

Why I chose Linux?

  • because it is free (download as you wish, copy, share, upgrade);
  • because it is much safer from virus;
  • very low maintenance required since pretty much you won’t need an antivirus, anti-spyware, and defrags;
  • software repositories will come with hundreds of free softwares that’ll be just a click away from you to download and install;
  • everything is basically modular so you can add, remove, adjust anything that you need;
  • it will work well with other computers running Windows and MacOS (file sharing, networking).

All of the projects mentioned above will have a live CD option so you can try without actually installing anything to your machine. So, have fun exploring the Linux world and later we’ll be back with some installation tips.